Nationalism is an ideology, which strives to create and sustain a nation based on commonalities of a given government, nation or territory. According to nationalism, the perpetuation of identity values, the self-determination of all subjects, the well-being, and the splendor of an individual’s nation are its principle values.
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The dominance of global politics and values by nationalist ideologies can be traced back to the ninetieth century, from the Romantic concept, “cultural diversity” and the liberal’s argument that political legitimacy is only achieved from the consent of a region’s population, and impacted much the social, cultural and political trends.
The nation state view began in Europe with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1684. Then, nationalist ideologies were considered an elite concern for many centuries, but during the ninetieth century it spread enormously in Europe and later globally.
In the greater part of the ninetieth century, regional politics were basically a struggle between the emerging nationalist ideologies and the old autocratic governments. Notably, WW1 marked the final destruction of many multinational states, such as the Ottoman Empire and Russia, but signing of the Versailles Treaty showed an effort to recognize nationalist ideologies, as most parts were seen as nation states.
Several ninetieth century scholars argued that nationalist ideologies were a positive value since they associated it with values such as individual and collective freedom from oppression.
Liberals believed that nationalist ideologies gave all states equal liberties and argued that it would make all nations to interact with one another peacefully and constructively, and international actors would be empowered to make decisions in a more rational way since, contrary to anachronistic despotic regimes which oppressed national minorities, nationalism stood solidly for individual independence. However, the WW1 did a lot to change this illogical attitude, as many people then died in the name of nationalist ideologies.
Nationalist ideologies can be explained in various ways. According to Hobsbawm (8), nationalism is based on the assumption that “any sufficiently large body of people whose members regard themselves as a ‘nation’ is worthy of serious study.” Nationalism can be explained from two perspectives: primordial and modern.
The primordialist scholars have argued that nationalist movements were able to create unity among formerly disgruntled populations, since they were able to establish actual, existing cultural, social or historical bonds among the people of a particular region.
Hence, nationalism was believed to be an expression of natural ties among populations that had only to be awarded an efficient political system in the form of the nation-state. However, these scholars did not believe that the nation was as a result of racial or ethical structures, unlike the Romantic cultures, which argued that all nations were linked by their specific culture that was formed by language, religion and social values.
On the other hand modernists did not believe that nationalist movements were an expression of natural ties among individuals, especially after the upheaval of WW2.
Modernists argued that common identities and shared cultural values were not just out there and that consolidation of nationalist movements was based on the approaches political elites and thinkers, and on the objectives of popular groups, which were instrumental in invoking a thinking of commonality. This critical view argues that nationalism is an invention and is brought about by intellectual and political awareness.
However, the public display of nationalist sentiment became a vital feature of the modern nation-state. If the interest of the population was at the foremost, then it was usual that political parties were formed that wooed support from the electorates.
Therefore, in many countries many pressure organisations emerged to influence the ruling regime and to enable a public sphere of political and cultural negotiation. Notably, there are various types of nationalism societies in modern day world. These nationalist societies are quite different from each other as each represents a certain ideology, group or interests of a specific culture.
There are different types of nationalisms, which include: First, expansionist nationalism, which centers on the ideology of acquiring new territories of land with the view that the current territory that they were occupying was either too small or inadequate to serve their interests either economically or physically.
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With that in mind they always sought to increase their geographical area by acquiring new lands even if it was already occupied others. For example, Adolf Hitler applied this type of nationalism whereby he sought to increase Germanys’ territorial boundary by annexing the neighboring countries in Europe.
Secondly, civic nationalism, which is the most common type of nationalism from the 19 century to date. The ideology behind this type of nationalism is that a given state or country is defined as an union of people whom have same rights and their differences are not taken as a point of discrimination therefore all the citizens of a given nation have the same political, social and economic rights.
Under civic nationalism, ethnicity of the people is not taken as a key factor in nationhood but as a political individual who is autonomous. Due to this autonomy of the different people in the state, a given country is able to draw from the society political authority which is legitimate and democratic. The society in this type of nationalism is usually rational and liberal in exercising its given rights and members who comprise of this type nationalism usually join it voluntarily (Graham & Thompson, 69).
Thirdly, ethnocentrism, this is quite opposite from the civic nationalism, whereby it embraces all the different types of ethnicities and cultures of the people into one common unit. Ethnocentrism embraces the ideology of one race/culture being more superior to the other or worse, the non existence of a particular race, for instance Nazi Germany and its campaigns to exterminate Jews.
There is no common political unit, but there are different ethnicities which have unequal rights vested in them by the political class. Fourthly, the ultra-nationalism, this is a form of fascism due to its dictatorial nature of ideologies. It promotes ethnicity and unquestioned loyalty to a supreme ruler or family hence the state does not get genuine political legitimacy from its citizenry.
Nevertheless, there exist conflicts and tensions between the various types of nationalisms. For instance, some nationalism discriminate against others whereby some members who belong to certain nationalism are not allowed to bond with others; civic nationalism members cannot interact with ethnocentric nationalists as they have different ideologies which conflict. Whereas civic nationalism promotes unity, ethnocentric promotes racism and ethnicity.
In conclusion, nationalism brings out the differences between different cultures of the world making people to identify themselves with their own nation other than one unit, which is humanity. Also people cannot establish themselves as autonomous individuals but as a nation which is oppressive to the personal growth of a given individual hence enabling the political class to oppress and manipulate the society (Spencer & Wollman, 124).
Graham, Dane & Thompson, Alfred. Theorizing Nationalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.
Hobsbawm, Edward. Nations and Nationalism since 1780. Programme, Myth, Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print.
Spencer, Paul & Wollman, Hillard. Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. New York: Sage, 2002. Print.